Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Ultimate Home Gym: 10 MUST HAVE Pieces of Equipment

So you're sick of working out in a commercial gym, and you have space in your garage or basement for a your own "mini" hardcore training facility and a few hundred dollars to spare on training equipment. Lots of the training I prescribe can be done with single pieces of equipment, with most if it being very cheap if not 100% FREE! However, if you have some cash to spend on building an ultimate, kick butt iron dungeon of you're very own, you can still get great equipment without going completely "all out". Its just a matter of cutting out the crap you don't need, and starting off with the absolute BARE ESSENTIALS. The freedom of being able to train when you want, listen to whatever music you want to listen to, and not have a bunch of people practically breathing down your neck is PRICELESS and is well worth whatever you would spend.

Here is a list of the most basic pieces of equipment, and why you need them.

1) Olympic Barbell with at least 300lb of plates
From all of the various deadlift variations to olympic pulls to rows to overhead presses to various squats, lunges and goodmornings, the barbell with plenty if iron to spare is THE MOST necessary piece of equipment for any home gym.

2) Power Rack with a Chinning Bar and attachable Parallel Bars
Listen, lots of people will try and sell you on power racks that are over a grand, but i've had my power rack for almost 10 years and its gone through as much use and abuse as anything could possibly ever handle...and it cost $250. For heavy squats, rack deadlifts, goodmorning variations, zercher deadlifts, super heavy shrugs, benching, incline benching and the like, a power rack is A MUST HAVE. Most power racks already come with a chin up bar, and the attachable parallel bars that I have were like 30 bucks and are solid as hell. Dips and chins are THE upperbody movements, and should be included in everyone's training program.

3) Adjustable Dumbbells
Ok, I guess depending on your space, these COULD go before a barbell, but it really doesn't matter. Get a solid pair of adjustable dumbbells (you can get them welded if you need to) that are loadable to at least 100lb. For heavy overhead work, to various lunges and single leg work, heavy one arm and two arms rows, shrugs, snatches and swings, a good pair of adjustable dumbbells will add endless variety to your program.

4) Tow Straps or Gymnastic Rings
There are various "suspension" products out there from Rings to Elitefts' blast straps to the TRX to Jon Hinds' Jungle Gym - they're all good, but can run you $50-150. I personally just use my tow straps from my elitefts dragging sled for various recline rows, scarecrows, facepulls, push ups, dips, muscle ups, tricep extensions, and curls. For upperbody training, ring training (we'll just generalize it) is an awesome addition and will rock you unlike anything else. Get em, make em, whatever - just use 'em!

5) Sandbags
Go to your local Army-Navy Surplus store, pick up a duffell bag, then go to home depot and buy 2-3 50lb bags of sand, some contractor bags, and gorilla tape. Make 4-6 mini contractor sandbags - double or triple them up, and duct tape the hell out of them. Throw those guys into the duffell bag and duct tape the duffell bag shut. Bam! You're very own sandbag. Great for clean and presses, shouldering, squats, lunges, goodmornings, carries, loading drills and a whole bunch of other painful variations. They're super cheap and easy to make. Get one.

6) Kegs
Acquire empty keg. Fill with 70-150lb of water. Dirt cheap or free, so why not just have one? Great for a variety of movements, and a completely different feel from sandbags.

7) Kettlebells.
As much as I love kettlebell training, its towards the bottom of the list, because these suckers ARE expensive. However, once you have one, you'll have it for life, and can use it for a variety of movements. I reccomend most guys get a 24kg and use it primarily as a GPP tool, doing tons of high rep swings, snatches, clean and presses, and complexes with it. If money is no concern, then definately pick up a pair or get some heavier kettlebells as well.

8) Dragging Sled
You can buy one, or if you want, make one using a large tire, an eye hook and some tow straps. Sled dragging is a MUST HAVE for lowerbody leg strength, conditioning and mental toughness. Also great for upperbody work like rows, scarecrows, facepulls, and various presses/flyes.

9) Jump Stretch Bands
Besides adding them for accomodating resistence to your squats, deadlifts or bench presses, bands are a great way to get in extra workouts for upperbody, core and posterior chain. High rep band circuits for the upperbody are great as a warm up or as gpp work, and high rep band goodmornings along with pull throughs are an excellent way to bring up lowerback, glute and hamstring strength.

10) Heavy Chains
Again, great for accomodating resistence when added to various squats, deadlifts and presses, the chains also act as an easy way to add weight to various upperbody movements like dips, chins, push ups, recline rows and facepulls. Get 2-4 of these from elitefts (they weigh 20lb each) and you'll have a "weighted vest" that will last you for life.


Al in Vancouver said...


Though it is better used outdoors, a slosh pipe made of 4 or 6 inch PVC (mine is 9 feet 8 inches and is 4 inch diameter) filled 2/3 with water and capped at both ends is freakin' awesome and very cheap.

Dustin Lebel said...

You're right...I totally need to make one of those! Dan John is a genius...